The life of Saint Louis IX instructs us in what it means to be a Christian Monarch, and a father.
Jean Sieur de Joinville relates:
...THE King loved God and His sweet Mother so well that if anybody within his reach used any foul language or lewd oath about God or His Mother, the King caused them to be very severely punished. For this I saw him cause a goldsmith at Cesarea to be put on a ladder in his shirt and breeches, with the entrails of a pig hung round his neck, right up to his ears. I heard say, after I returned from over-seas that he had a burgher of Paris seared through the nose and lips for the same offence, but I did not see it. And the holy King said, " I would gladly be branded with a hot iron, on condition that all lewd oaths were done away with out of my kingdom."
I was about twenty-two years in his company; and never heard him swear by God, nor by His Mother nor by His Saints; but whenever he wanted to affirm anything, he used to say, " Truly it was thus," or " Truly it shall be thus."
Never did I hear him name the devil, unless it were in some book where the name came in, or in the life of the Saints of whom the book was speaking. And a great disgrace it is to the realm of France, and to the King who allows it, that a man can hardly open his lips without saying " Deuce take it!" and a great abuse it is of language to devote to the devil a man or woman who was given to God at baptism. In the household of Joinville, whoever uses such an expression, pays for it with a buffet or a slap, and such bad language has been almost entirely put down.
Before he went to bed, he used to send for his children, and would tell them stories of the deeds of good kings and emperors; and he used to tell them that they must take example by people such as these. He would tell them too, about the deeds of wicked rich men, who by their lechery and their rapine and their avarice, had lost their kingdoms. "And these things," he used to say, " I tell you as a warning to avoid them, lest you incur the anger of God."
He had them taught the Hours of Our Lady, and caused the Hours for the Day to be repeated to them, in order to give them the habit of hearing their Hours when they should come into their estates.
The King was so liberal an almsgiver, that wherever he went throughout his kingdom, he made gifts to poor churches, to lazar-houses, to alms houses, to asylums, and to poor gentlemen and gentlewomen.
From his childhood up, he was compassionate towards the poor and the suffering; and it was the custom that, wherever he went, six score poor should always be replenished in his house with bread and wine, and meat or fish every day. In Lent and Advent, the number was increased, and many a time the King would wait on them, and place their meat before them, and would carve their meat before them, and with his own hand would give them money when they went away.
Likewise on the high vigils of solemn feasts, he would serve the poor with all these things, before he either ate or drank.
Besides all this, he had every day old broken-down men to dine and sup with him, and had them served with the same food that he himself was eating. And when they had feasted, they took away with them a certain sum of silver.
Over and above all these things, the King used every day to give large and liberal alms to poor men of religion, to poor asylums, to the sick poor, and all sorts of poor colleges, to poor gentlemen and married women and spinsters, to fallen women, to poor widows, and to women in child-bed, and to such poor as by reason of old age or sickness were unable to labour or pursue their trade in number past all telling. So that we may say that he was herein more fortunate than Titus, Emperor of Rome, of whom old writers tell us, that he was passing sorrowful and downcast, because of one day in which he had conferred no benefit.
He asked me whether I washed the feet of the poor on Shrove Thursday; and I replied No, that I thought it unseemly. And he told me that I ought not to contemn it, for God had done it. "For you would find it very hard to do what the King of England does, who washes the feet of lepers and kisses them."
When any of the benefices of Holy Church escheated to the King, before bestowing it, he would first take counsel with good persons of religion and others; and after consultation he would bestow the benefices in good faith, honourably and according to God. Nor would he give any benefice to any cleric, unless he resigned all the other Church benefices that he might hold.
In all the towns of his realm where he had never been before, he would seek out the Preachers and Grey Friars, if there were any, and desire their prayers.
From the very first, when he came into his kingdom and to years of discretion, he began building monasteries and various religious houses, amongst which the Abbey of Royaumont bears the palm for eminence and renown.
He founded the Abbey of St. Anthony near Paris; and the Abbey of St. Matthew of Rouen, into which he put women of the order of Preaching Friars; and that of Longchamp for women of the Minorite order; and endowed them highly. He allowed his mother to found the Abbey of Liz by Melun-sur-Seine, and that of Pontoise, which is called Maubuisson.
He founded several almshouses: the Almshouse of Paris, that of Pontoise, and that of Compiegne and of Vernon, and endowed them highly; besides the Grey Friars Nunnery of St. Cloud, which his sister, my Lady Isabel, founded by his leave.
Also he founded the Blind Asylum near Paris to receive the blind of the city of Paris, and had a chapel built for them to hear divine service. And the good King built the Charterhouse outside Paris, and assigned sufficient revenues to the monks who dwelt there for the service of Our Lord. Shortly afterwards he had another house built outside Paris, which was called the House of the Daughters of God, and caused a great number of women to be boarded there, who by reason of poverty had fallen into the sin of wantonness, and granted them four hundred pounds' worth of revenue to support them. Also in many places of his kingdom he founded houses of female Begouins, and gave them revenues to live upon, and gave orders to admit such as gave promise of a chaste life.
Some of his kindred used to grumble at his liberal almsgiving, and because he spent so much on this kind of thing; but he used to say: " I would much rather be extravagant in alms, for the love of God, than in the pomp and vainglories of this world."
Yet, though the King spent so much in charity, his daily household expenses were none the less very great. He lived in a free and open-handed style at the parliaments and assemblies of barons and knights; and the hospitality at his Court was so courteous, generous, and plentiful that nothing like it had been known for a long time past at the courts of his predecessors.
The King loved all people who devoted themselves to the service of God and wore the religious habit, and all such as came to him were secure of a livelihood. He made provision for the Brethren of Carmel, and bought them a site on the banks of the Seine in the direction of Charenton; and he built a house for them, and bought them vestments and chalices and all the things needful for performing divine service.
Next, he provided for the Austin Friars, and bought them a grange belonging to a burgher of Paris, with all its appurtenances, outside the gate of Montmartre, and had it turned into a monastery for them.
He provided for the Brethren of the Bag, and granted them a site on the Seine, over against St. Germain des Prés, where they took up their quarters; but they did not stay long there, for they were soon suppressed.
When the Brethren of the Bag were provided for, another sort of Brotherhood sprang up, called the " Order of White Mantles," and demanded that the King should help them to settle in Paris; and to harbour them he bought them a house and several old sites round about, close to the old Temple Gate at Paris, not far from the Weavers' quarter. These White Monks were put down by the Council of Lyons, that Gregory X held.
Again there came a new sort of Friars, who entitled themselves " Brethren of the Holy Cross," and wore the cross on their breasts; and they begged the King to help them. The King did so readily, and lodged them in a street called Temple Crossing, which nowadays is called the street of the Holy Cross.
Thus did the good King fence about the city of Paris with men of religion...
God help our noble Duc d'Angou. Grant him a long life and restoration to the ancient throne of France.
Dieu le Roy!